Sunday, August 30, 2009

The case of the cat dumped in a box

I'm still wondering whether this was a bizarre practical joke or what.
At about 12.30 am on Saturday morning I had a call from the duty nurse at the Vet School to say they'd been phoned by someone with an injured cat claiming to have been told to contact them by the RSPCA National Control Centre.
This was odd in itself, because the University out of hours emergency number isn't available to members of the public; normally someone who found an un-owned injured cat would be told to take the cat to the nearest available private vet and that the RSPCA would pick up the cost of emergency first aid. The owner of an animal already registered with our clinic would have the branch mobile contact number on their registration card and is supposed to phone that, not the NCC nor the Vet School.
Neither the nurse nor I were at our best and brightest after being woken at that time of night, but we agreed that I should phone the cat's finder and the NCC to try to find exactly what was going on and how badly injured the cat was. If the owner wasn't known, there wasn't any way to find out whether the cat herself was registered with the clinic, so she'd have to go to a private vet in any case if she was in too much of a bad way to wait until the regular session on Saturday morning.
After midnight the surcharge on vet's fees goes up to £140 round here, so I was not a happy bunny. I phoned the caller first and established that he'd found the cat tied up in a cardboard box beside the road. He'd decided to call the RSPCA because she was limping and not interested in food or drink and was calling all the time, but she didn't really sound to me as though she was in such a desperate state as to justify spending the cost of a minor operation to get her seen immediately rather than in 8 hours time. I tried to explain this to the caller, who clearly wasn't happy about it, but left him with a promise that I'd contact the NCC again on his behalf and definitely arrange for the cat to see a vet even if not right now this minute.
Meanwhile the cat really was kicking up a racket in the background - sounding in fact suspiciously as if she was "calling" as in "on heat" rather than because she was hurt. Assuming the story about finding her in a box wasn't a leg-pull, being in season could explain why she was dumped if someone couldn't or wouldn't pay to get her spayed.
Phoned NCC as I was beginning to be suspicious that the cat finder had actually called some other organisation who were aware that the Vet School provide the inpatient care for our clinic and that was how he'd come to get their number. They didn't have any record of a call from the finder's address that night and confirmed to me that they would definitely have passed a call about a cat being dumped in this way to an inspector (an offence has clearly been committed) even if they'd advised the caller that they wouldn't be able to arrange for someone to pick the cat up before daylight.
I then phoned the finder back to see if he could confine the cat until morning so that one of us could take her to the clinic, only to discover she'd jumped out of the box, escaped out the front door, jumped the garden fence and legged it into the darkness. I suspect the final upshot will be a phone call a couple of months down the line about a stray cat having kittens in someone's garden.

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